In prison with drug problems

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Being imprisoned for drug offences or addiction problems is a common occurrence in Luxembourg. There are support services for inmates, but they require a lot of coordination. There seems to be room for improvement.

It does not take long until the first contact is made. Within 24 hours of starting a sentence in the closed correctional facility (CPL), an inmate meets a member of the psychiatric care service (SPMP) and fills out a form. In it, he can indicate whether he uses alcohol, heroin, cocaine or cannabis.

This can be read in this year's national drug report. The document for 2021, called Relis, is not only an inventory of drug use in general, prevention work or the consequences of use in the form of infectious diseases and overdoses. It also dedicates a separate chapter to the topic of drugs and prison.

This shows that many who are sentenced to prison have an addiction problem: A quarter of the approximately 680 intake forms filled out in 2020 described problematic alcohol consumption. Every fifth person used heroin, every third person cocaine and almost 40 percent had "regular and abusive" cannabis use. To make matters worse, for some, use only begins in prison.

Anyone with an addiction problem and/or psychiatric illness can, within the prison, access services of the Rehaklinik, which is part of the neuropsychiatric hospital CHNP. Dr Isabelle Mouric is a psychiatrist and has been working at the Rehaklinik since the beginning of 2020. In May 2020, the Frenchwoman took over the coordination of the department of forensic psychiatry. This comprises, firstly, three inpatient departments in Ettelbrück. Secondly, the psychiatric care service in the penitentiary system (SPMP, formerly SMPP) and thirdly, the Suchthëllef (formerly: Tox programme). SPMP and Suchthëllef are represented by permanent and commuting staff at the three correctional sites ‒ the closed prison (CPL) in Schrassig, the semi-open prison (CPG) in Givenich and the remand prison Uerschterhaff (CPU).

"The care services are aimed at all inmates, whether they are suspects, i.e. waiting for a verdict, or convicts", explains Dr Mouric. In principle, prisoners claim the services of the rehabilitation clinic of their own free will. However, there is one exception: a person can be transferred to the rehabilitation clinic against their will, namely if they refuse care but needs it and could pose a danger to themselves or to others. Such a "mise en observation" must be approved by a judge.

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